The Poison Tree, Best Album of 2011, FREE!


It's time to give away some copies of The Poison Tree's self-titled debut album, which I named my best album of 2011. From my Best Albums of 2011 post...

Lovely & subtly massive. Cinematic. Baritone vocals. Literary. Charming. Moody. Introspective. Wistful. Barely wet city streets. Black and white. Hands-in-pockets. Collar pulled tight. Good penmanship, elegant words, antique fountain pen on an antique journal on an antique table in a sparsely decorated and lonely room. Life...experienced. Calmly dramatic. This album is almost completely and shamefully neglected. It's a rarely reviewed 2011 masterpiece. It's not #1 because it's neglected. It's #1 because it's gorgeous and brilliant.

You can download it for $4.99 today, and I very much encourage you to buy it. But I also want to give away a physcial CD to three of my readers (thanks to Steve Salett, The Poison Tree, for being so gracious as to provide copies to give away).

Here's how you enter to win (U.S. residents only)...

STEP 1: Copy & share the following without the quote marks on Twitter (if you aren't on Twitter, use Facebook, or do BOTH!): "Win @stevekmccoy's #1 2011 album, The Poison Tree. RT this & comment at Reformissionary to enter! http://bit.ly/zqn9TY "

STEP 2: Leave a comment below (so I can verify you did step 1). Include your full name and real email address (kept private) so I can contact the winners. In your comment, guess how many writing divices (pens, pencils, markers) & other utensils are in the two coffee mugs on my desk. It's a number between 1-100. I'll buy a free download of The Poison Tree to the first person to guess it exactly (if not a winner of a CD).

I will randomly choose 3 winners in the late afternoon/early evening on Friday (6th).

TONS of Good & Cheap Music 12.24.11

Music brain away

Amazon is having a massive sale on MP3 albums. All are $5 or cheaper. Nearly all of my Best Albums of 2011 & honorable mentions are super-cheap! And there are many more great albums for sale beyond my list. Check these out!

NEW = Recently found & added to the original list

From my Best Albums of 2011 list...

Honorable mentions...

 Other recommended albums for $5 and under...

Best Albums of 2011


Time for my Best Albums of 2011 list. I don't listen to everything out there (who has the time? or money?), but I listen to a lot. I hope my list will help you discover some new music. I'll give comment to the higher picks and I'm happy to discuss any of the albums, why I liked them, why some albums are not on my list, etc. Please list your favorite album(s) in the comments. Love to hear'em.

See my Best Albums of 2010|2009|2008|2007|2006

HONORABLE MENTIONSAtlas SoundParallax | The Black Keys: El CaminoThe Low AnthemSmart Flesh | Other LivesTamer Animals |  Panda BearTomboy | RadioheadThe King Of Limbs | SepalcureSepalcure | Smith WesternsDye It Blonde | Gillian WelchThe Harrow & The Harvest | Youth LagoonThe Year of Hibernation


tUnE-yArDsW H O K I L L | As creative as it gets, but not as good of a listen as some say. When I listen, it stretches me but leaves me somehow unsatisfied. I want to both celebrate this accomplishment and punch it in the face.  

ALBUMS 35-21

35. GirlsFather, Son, Holy Ghost

34. CultsCults

33. Real EstateDays

32. Okkervil RiverI Am Very Far

31. Washed OutWithin or Without

30. My Morning JacketCircuital

29. Explosions in the SkyTake Care, Take Care, Take Care

28. Ryan AdamsAshes & Fire

27. Crystal Castles(II)

26. War On DrugsSlave Ambient

25. DoloreanThe Unfazed

24. Ha Ha TonkaDeath of a Decade

23. WilcoThe Whole Love

22. The Pains of Being Pure In HeartBelong

21. GlasserRing

ALBUMS 20-11

20. Joy FormidableThe Big Roar | Running through thorn bushes at full speed.

19. Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues | Dancing through willow branches in slow motion.

18. Middle BrotherMiddle Brother | Love these three guys. Love what they created. But I still like what they do separately better than collectively. That said, it's a great album.

17. The HorrorsSkying | Eerie flight. Bending notes. Worthy of both their name and the album's name.

16. King Creosote & Jon HopkinsDiamond Mine | Fragile Scottish lullabies. Delicate & delightful. Pipe smoking. Peat beneath my feet.

15. The Roots: Undun | Concept album well conceived. Arrived late, but deserves much attention. Looking forward to more listens.

14. BeirutThe Rip Tide | Not sure they can make a bad record. Distant world flavor. Horntastic. Seasoning for a bland day. 

13. The AntlersBurst Apart | Please keep making music! They are doing amazing things, first through Hospice and now with Burst Apart. A wonderful follow-up to a crazy-good album.

12. James BlakeJames Blake | Audio playground. A sonic dance. Ear candy...that's good for you. A blend of a powerful voice and eclectic editing and creative processing. It continues to grow on me.

11. DawesNothing Is Wrong | Opening song, "Time Spent in Los Angeles," is one of my favorite songs of the year. I think I once listened to it 5 times in a row. Songwriting excellence. Lyric-driven rock'n'roll. 

TOP 10


10. DecemberistsThe King Is Dead | Their best-ever album. So many good songs. Thoroughly enjoyable. Completely accessible, yet it's well-crafted art and deserving of high praise. "Bear your neighbors' burden within reason." Singable. If you are weirded out by indie music, let this album invite you in.


9. Frank TurnerEngland Keep My Bones | Passionate. Straight-forward = says what he means. Atheistic worship songs, but don't let that discourage you. Redemptive themes throughout. It's incredibly informative, enjoyable, and artistic. Loud, but acoustically controlled loud. Sing-along with beer in hand. Punk sensibilities. Masterful. At times it's old-school Avettastic screamishness.


8. LowC'mon | Some of the most memorable lyrics of the year are here. Some because of word choice, and some because of how they are presented. The critical calling out of "all you guys out there tryin’ to act like Al Green, y'all are weak." "I'm nothing but heart" repeated for 6 minutes in a slow, heavy, glorious swell. "Try to sleep" and "don't look at the camera" on the opening track captured by a wonderful, memorable melody. As a whole this album is a slow crawl... beautiful, often delicately heavy, and always unsettlingly moody. A haunting album that won't leave you alone.

Wyeoak7. Wye OakCivilian | Moaning. Longing. Power on the edge of letting go. Back-n-forth between cleanly crafted & fuzzy heaviness. Dark. Haunted. A sense that something isn't quite right in the world. Uneasy. Wonderfully disjointed at times. What you create after a disturbing dream brings you to your knees.


6. The FieldLooping State of Mind | It is looping, ambient soundscapes. Perfect for work, reading, etc. Or, and maybe more important, it's perfect for putting the headphones on, laying down, turning it up, and riding along. These steady slow builds and gradual descents are a joy to navigate. And beyond mere ambient sounds without structure, that can be a pleasure as well, these tracks are guided by heavy beats and basslines. So while the music soars, it also stomps, stomps, stomps along. 


5. Josh GarrelsLove & War & The Sea In Between | Listened to this album more than most. Poetic. Rhythmic. Completely Christ-haunted and distinctly Christian, yet some of the best music of the year Christian or otherwise. I can't believe how little buzz I've seen about this album. It's really wonderful. And it's 100% FREE, which means everyone should be checking out and loving this album. And then you'll want to check out Josh's other albums.


4. Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver | I wanted to rate this lower simply because I loved For Emma, Forever Ago so much. I need objectivity! Stupid me. While losing the romance of discovery of Justin Vernon's falsetto and magical soundscapes that came with For Emma, this album establishes his genius as a lasting force. I ranted last year on Twitter that Vernon should stop making side projects and stick to Bon Iver. My goodness. He did.


3. M83: Hurry Up We're Dreaming | I enjoyed M83's 2008 album, Saturdays = Youth, though I seem to remember finding it late. I was interested when I hear a new album was coming. I didn't know I should be this interested. It adds more soar, more lift, more joy to 80's shoegaze. It also adds more epic views of despair. It really is a masterpiece that I, so far, haven't been able to stop listening to. The first five songs alone are worth the price of the album. I wish John Hughes was around to hear this.


2. PJ HarveyLet England Shake | A remarkable album. Disturbing. Poignant. WWI, war-time, yet universal at all times to the war-torn everywhere. Quirky. Odd. Rare. PJ's voice is a perfect kind of shrill (if there is such a thing) for these creative arrangements. On deck during a colossal battle, the siren of the ocean sings beyond view through the storm & cannons. The guts of dead soldiers are clearly in view.


1. The Poison TreeThe Poison Tree | Lovely & subtly massive. Cinematic. Baritone vocals. Literary. Charming. Moody. Introspective. Wistful. Barely wet city streets. Black and white. Hands-in-pockets. Collar pulled tight. Good penmanship, elegant words, antique fountain pen on an antique journal on an antique table in a sparsely decorated and lonely room. Life...experienced. Calmly dramatic. This album is almost completely and shamefully neglected. It's a rarely reviewed 2011 masterpiece. It's not #1 because it's neglected. It's #1 because it's gorgeous and brilliant. Please buy it...and be moved.

Some Lists | Best Albums of 2011


Some year-end lists of the best albums of 2011 are coming out. Some are right up my alley and some challenge, uh, my alley. Best of lists aren't only good to compare your own favorites, but to discover albums you may not have found otherwise. I'm already listening to a couple of albums I would have ignored if not for showing up on a respected list. Check some of these out (several compiled by the excellent Stereogum).

T4A | Featured Bloggers - Everything


Here's my best shot at creating one post with links to everything from Together for Adoption featured bloggers. Not every blogger wrote on everything or was present for every main session. I expect more posts are still coming with reflections on T4A in the days to come. I know I have some unfinished posts on some talks and a handful of other reflections to share. If you see things I've missed, let me know. FYI: I know other bloggers/twitterers said a lot at T4A, but I'm focusing on the "featured bloggers." If you want to put a link to other helpful posts in the comments from non-featured bloggers, that would be a great addition to the list.

Check out tweets still coming out from #t4aCon attenders and others RTing good quotes. Also go back in the Twitter accounts (listed below) for a ton of great quotes. That may be the best way to get direct quotes, while the posts often contain interaction on the quotes and topics.

BLOGGERS - Name [link to Twitter account] (abbreviation)


Darrin Patrick | Session 1 - The Church & Social Justice


Tullian Tchividjian | Session 2 - Surprised by Adoption


Dan Cruver | Session 3 - Adoption & The God Who Cares


Bryan Loritts | Session 4 - The Church as the Theater of Transracial Adoption


Jeff Vanderstelt | Session 5 - Gospel-Motivation for Missional Living


Tim Chester | Session 6 - Relaxing in Trinitarian Love



  • A Mom at Rest by Dr. Donna Thoennes || DBJG | DP
  • Missional Church, Missional God, Missional Story by Tim Chester || AA: Sessions 1, 2, 3 | JR: Sessions 1, 2, 3
  • Attachment & Family Growth by Mark & Kristen Howerton || JG: Pt 1 | Pt 2
  • Gospel-Centered Parenting by Tim Chester || DPBT
  • Trans-Racial Adoption by Vermon Pierre || DP 
  • Missional Living & Orphan Care by Jason Kovacs || JR
  • Grief In Infertility || MLA


M83 | "Wait"

I don't talk much about my favorite songs. I talk about songs I like, and there are many. But one new song that I've just completely fallen for is "Wait" by M83. It's off their new 22 track double album, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, which is sure to be high on my list of best albums from 2011. This isn't an official video, just a picture, but you get to hear the song. If you want to really digest it, close your eyes and crank it up. It builds and soars. Enjoy!

Music Monday | The National Anthem

This is how you sing the National Anthem without making it about you. It's classy. I give you Zooey Deschanel respectfully and beautifully singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before a World Series game. For more beautiful singing, check out here albums with M. Ward -- She & Him: Volume 1 ($5) & Volume 2 ($5.99). And just out today for only $5...A Very She & Him Christmas.

T4A | Songs

Here are all the songs from Friday/Saturday in order. At least that's what worship leader Jimmy McNeal told me. I'm pretty sure he repeated "Let Your Kingdom Come" on Saturday, but since I can't remember exactly where, I'll leave it off. If someone knows, let me know and I'll fix the list. Hope you enjoyed the corporate singing as much as I did.

Jimmy tells me he has an album coming next year. If I learn more, I'll let you know.

Friday Morning

"Your Great Name" - The People's Church
"From the Inside Out" - Hillsong
"You Alone Can Rescue" - Matt Redman
"How Great Thou Art" -hymn (Arron Ivey version)
"Let Your Kingdom Come" - Aaron Ivey

Friday Afternoon/Evening

"You Alone Can Rescue" - Matt Redman
"Hallelujah! What a Savior!" - hymn (Aaron Ivey band version)
"How Marvelous" - hymn

Saturday Morning

"The Wonderful Cross" - Chris Tomlin
"Your Great Name" - Hillsong
"Hallelujah! What a Savior!" - Aaron Ivey version

Saturday Afternoon/Evening

"How Marvelous"
"Hallelujah! What a Savior!" - Aaron Ivey version
"Forever Reign" - Hillsong
"How He Loves" - David Crowder version

Best of 2011: Albums I'm Considering

Tim Casteel asked me a great question in a comment on a recent post: "I'd be interested to know: what else is on your potential 'best albums of 2011' list?

There are a bunch that will get my consideration and I can't list them all, nor recall all of them. I expect some to pop up high on the list that just haven't come to mind as I post this. I give each album a good, fresh listen as I work on my list. So don't quote me when my list comes out in December and there are some new names high on the list and listed albums not on the list. :) Here are some I expect to compete for the top albums, in alphabetical order.

What isn't on my list that should be?

Together for Adoption Conference | Early Bird

148 Email from the T4A folks on how you can save by registering this week for the conference. I'll be there with my beautiful wife. Hope to see you there!

You can save $30 by registering for Together for Adoption's October 21-22 orphan care/adoption conference this week (read full-details here). You may now register for just $75 today, July 25th, through Saturday, July 30th. This limited-time discount is over $30 less than our current early bird special. Take advantage of this super early bird price and help us spread the word about it this week. This sale ends on Saturday, July 30th at 11:59pm. Check here for details and to register at this super early bird rate.

If you take advantage of this early bird special and would like to sign up for conference childcare or reserve a room at one of our partner hotels, you will need to do so at our regular online registration site. You may also register there for one of our two pre-conference events as well.

NOTE: If you are coming with a group from your church, this would be a perfect opportunity for your group's members to register.

We hope to see you in Phoenix this October 21-22nd.

Together for Adoption 2011 Conference


Registration is now open for the 2011 Together for Adoption Conference. Come to Phoenix on October 21-22 and join me and Joe Thorn and our wives and a bunch of other good folks for what is sure to be informative, insightful, fun and, uh, hot. From the website...

Join us October 21-22 in Phoenix for Together for Adoption Conference 2011. Over 1,200 people will gather together at Redemption Church (Gilbert Campus) to explore the theme Missional Living, the Gospel and Orphan Care. One of our primary objectives for this year’s conference is to create a forum to consider the good news of the Gospel, explore its implications for how we think about and implement orphan care strategies, and discuss how we can move toward greater collaboration as the people of God for the sake of orphans worldwide.

General session speakers include: Darrin PatrickTullian TchividjianTim Chester (coming to us from England), Bryan LorittsJuan Sanchez, and Jeff Vanderstelt.


  • Early Bird: $109 Per Person (good through August 31st)
  • Regular: $149 Per Person (price from September 1 until October 21)

*Registration price includes two onsite lunches and afternoon snacks.

Worship Leaders: Shaun GrovesAaron Ivey, and Jimmy McNeal

General Session Hosts: Shaun Groves and Johnny Carr (National Director of Church Partnerships at Bethany Christian Services)

Note: Childcare is available.

Pre-Conference Event (Thursday, October 20):

Missional Church, Missional God, Missional Story
Tim Chester and Dan Cruver

Missional church is not simply the latest fad. It’s rooted in the trinitarian character of God and the story of the Bible. Explore the foundations for shaping life around gospel, community and mission along with practical application for church life and the implications for orphan care.

Registration: $75 Per Person

Pre-Conference information.

Current list of our Featured Bloggers: MegMillerLindsey NoblesReformissionary (Steve McCoy), JoeThorn.netJulie GummZach NielsenMissional Thoughts (Josh Reich), and Michael Robinson. More will be added.

There will be 60+ breakouts to equip you and provide you with opportunities to meet others who share your same passion for orphaned and vulnerable children. Over 60 organizations involved in orphan care, adoption, and foster care will also be there to serve you as you seek to live out James 1:27.

Notice on the list of featured bloggers, my real name is secondary to my blog name. That can't be good! ;)

I hope many of you will join us. So go register for the conference. Also check out and "Like" the Together for Adoption page

New Albums Out Today

Some really outstanding new albums out today...

$5 Albums for May (Over 1,500 of Them!)


Hard to list all my recommendations. I've narrowed to the best of the best, but go peruse the whole list of 1,500. Let me know what you found among the 1,500 that I haven't listed and you think it great. I'm always up for new recommendations.